‘Private copy levy will save Nigeria’s music economy’

Audu Maikori

Audu Maikori

As Nigeria continues to grapple with its ailing economy, as a result of the sudden fall in crude price in the international market, different groups and individuals have continued to point at possible areas of diversifying the country’s economy and create wealth outside oil.

Rising from it’s meeting in Lagos last week, the Digital Music Monitoring Group called on Nigeria’s Federal Government to activate the Private Copy Levy provided for under Section 40 of the Nigerian Copyright Act, without further delay. The group made up of top music industry practitioners and stakeholders from related digital service providers and regulators, said the activation of the levy scheme will help reduce the effect of the unauthorised and debilitating acquisition of a large amount of music without any payment, which is threatening the survival of the Nigerian music industry in the digital era.

At the meeting chaired by Mr. Audu Maikori, President, Chocolate City Group were Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman, COSON; Mr. Obi Ezeilo, Lagos Zonal Manager, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC); Mr. Joel Ajayi, Chairman, Music Label Owners Association of Nigeria (MULOAN); Engr. Sharon Wilson, National President, Music Producers & Marketers Association of Nigeria (MUPMAN); Mr. Efe Omorogbe, CEO, Nowmuzik; Mr. Lawrence Wilbert, CEO, Ajilent Wireless; Mr Chijioke Ezeh, Coordinator, Wireless Application Services Producers Association of Nigeria (WASPAN) and Intellectual Property Lawyers, Mr. Afam Nwokedi, Principal Partner, Stillwaters Law Firm; Mr. Justin Ige, Managing Partner, Creative Legal and Mr. Chinedu Chukwuji, General Manager, COSON and Secretary of the Group.

There has been growing agitations across the creative industry for the activation of the private copy levy scheme. With the advent of new technology, millions of people in the country no longer buy music cassettes, CDs or DVDs. They obtain their music by freely downloading, file sharing or using blue tooth technology and deny owners of the works and the investors in music significant revenue. To compensate for this huge loss, which threatens the survival of the creative industries, in many countries around the world, a small levy is charged on the gadgets used for this stealing of intellectual property. The money collected from the levy of such gadgets such as MP3s, MP4s, cell phones, memory cards, flash drives, etc, is distributed through the collective management system to the artistes, writers and producers whose music, movies and books are stolen.

About 23 years ago, Nigeria became the first country in Africa to provide for the levy in our laws. Sadly, since then, Nigeria has been unable to implement the scheme due to the nation’s choking bureaucracy. The situation has made several international and domestic investors to flee the country draining our nation of massive revenue, employment and growth. It is widely believed that the activation of the private copy levy should provide some succor to the creative industries.

According to Maikori, if the government was serious about the development of the creative industries and the hundreds of thousands of jobs tied to the industries, it needs to act without delay to save the industries from imminent annihilation. He noted that there is no way that the industries will survive with the free-for-all copying of music, movies and books going on in the country.

Also speaking at the meeting, Engr. Sharon Wilson of MUPMAN, said that members of his association were finding it difficult to continue to invest in an industry in which “monkey is working and the baboon is chopping.” He called on the Federal Government not to wait until the total collapse of the music industry before taking action on the private copy levy.

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